...For an instant Alonzo closed his eyes and clutched the anchoring branches coiled about the trunk, his cheek grazed the rough bark. But at last he had somewhat firm ground beneath his curled toes and the grip of his desperate hands. The vine swung free, leaving Alonzo attached like a leech to the broad tree. The feel of Master’s arms hard and comforting, the scent of his manly sweat permeated his senses, giving him an odd sense of mantled security. His heart pounded. Adrenaline surged. The fear of death seemed so easily replaced by another sensation. Something stronger, something alive that beat through him with a mounting urgency.
Master’s eyes bored into him, binding him with that look, forcing Alonzo to acquiesce.
He turned his head and looked more fully into Master Phelix’s eyes. And there, clinging to the side of that tree, Master kissed him.
It was a forceful grind of mouth and teeth. Master bit into Alonzo’s lip, just hard enough for blood to flow, and the sting of that grip oddly grounded Alonzo.
Deeply, savagely, drawing blood from Alonzo, Master Phelix sucked up the droplets, then fastened his mouth to Alonzo’s and he seemed to devour Alonzo’s soul in that deep and hungry kiss—that ended all too soon for Alonzo’s liking. It was quick and left Alonzo eager for more, his lower lip throbbing from the savage possession. He licked the last of the blood droplets clean; words were lost to him.
Master Phelix grinned. “Well done, boy. Well done. Last boy I brought up here didn’t have near as much pluck as you. Nor could he follow direction.” He studied Alonzo’s face intently. “Not nearly as…satisfying.”
“Did he make it to the top?” Alonzo asked breathlessly, curious about the initiate who might have preceded him on this dangerous climb.
The trailmaster removed his arm from around Alonzo and began to climb without answering Alonzo’s question. “Not much farther now,” he called back.
Alonzo inhaled, filling his lungs, then released the shuddering breath. He worried his wounded lip, and then slowly began to climb. Oddly, he never once thought of retreating back down the tree after that hair-raising incident. There was only one way to go, to follow Master, do as he commanded, and climb, eager to discover what awaited him above. Hoping he would have at least one more taste of Master’s lips before this adventure was over. Wanting desperately to prove that he was indeed a better man than the one who came before.
His arms and legs ached, muscles quivering.
“A few more feet,” Master Phelix coaxed.
To what? Alonzo couldn’t help wondering how near they were to their destination, how long would it be before Master ordered him back down the monstrous tree? His energy was almost totally depleted.
For a moment he panicked when he lost sight of Master Phelix as the man disappeared through a thick canopy of verdant leaves. Then a powerful hairy arm reached out for him. Alonzo clasped Master Phelix’s hand and allowed himself to be hoisted upward…